"Let us have the courage to ask ourselves if we measure up to more than just a grab-bag of cliches," he said.
"Let us declare that our head of state should be one of us.
"Let us rally behind an Australian republic - a model that truly speaks for who we are, our modern identity, our place in our region and our world."
Cliches anyone? Really. It gets worse if you look at Mr Shorten's apparent views on Australian history.
The one really important issue that Mr Shorten raised was the need for constitutional recognition of Australia's Aboriginal heritage. This is something that I support as a way of putting one aspect of Australia's past behind us. Sadly, it has all become highly problematic. There is no agreement that I can see within the Aboriginal community, while the non-Aboriginal community doesn't care a great deal and is equally divided. Then to mix the question, as Mr Shorten did, with other issues is to add too division.
Fortunately, as an historian I do not have to buy into Mr Shorten's apparent interpretation of the Australian past. I don't want to play in the history wars. In writing, my task is to present the evidence and (hopefully) make it interesting.
The transcript of Mr Shorten's speech is not yet available, so I have not been able to cross-check my reactions against the actual words.
Mr Shorten was speaking at the launch of a new book, Mateship, by author Nick Dyrenfurth. I am not sure that it is correct to claim, as the publisher's blurb does, that this is the first book-length exploration of Australia's secular creed. I would have thought that that claim actually belonged to Russell Ward's The Australian Legend. However, the place and topic set the context for Mr Shorten's remarks.
One of the difficulties with mateship lies in the in-built tension between mates and the rest, between them and us. The concept does become generalised, made universal as an element of the Australian character, that was the continuing power of Ward's book, but the tension remains and has expressed itself in various ways over time. Mr Shorten refers to this. I quote from the Canberra Times report.
Mr Shorten also said that while Australia Day should be celebrated, it was important that Australians also confronted the lows and tragedies of Australian history, such as the Myall Creek massacre.
"I don't think shirking it with the great Australian silence solves anything. We need to recognise our history."
Mateship, he said, "reminds us of a timeless truth: real patriots don't try and justify or excuse their nation's flaws and failings and anachronisms – they get on and fix them. True patriots don't shrink from historical truth – they welcome it, they learn from it. True patriots know that until a nation includes everyone – in its history, in its society, in its economy – then there is always more to do."
The opposition leader said Australians were tired of people "claiming victory in the 'history wars' - as if the Australian story has to be fought 'to the last man and the last footnote'."
"We gain nothing from boiling down our history to a bland mish-mash myth of the Rum Rebellion and Burke and Wills, Bodyline and the stump-jump plough, the Victa Mower and Olympic gold. There is nothing wrong with celebrating those moments and achievements – but it is wrong to pretend that they represent the limit of our national capabilities – or our national ambitions."
And he criticised Prime Minister Tony Abbott's assertion late last year, when welcoming UK Prime Minister David Cameron to the parliament, that former prime minister John Howard had settled the debate about Australia's place in the world.
"No leader can 'end' a conversation about our nation's sense of self. No leader can 'settle' the question of Australia's global role and responsibilities. And no leader should take pride in trying.
The book traces the history of 'mateship" in Australia, with Mr Shorten describing it as a "celebration of our national character".
But Mr Shorten also noted the book acknowledged that Australian 'mateship' had rarely included everyone", noting for example that at the turn of the 20th century, the Australian Workers Union was open to all workers but at the same time say: "No Chinese, Japanese, Kanakas, Afghans or coloured aliens."
"The fact is, mateship has not always been there when our nation, our people needed it. After all, where was mateship at Myall Creek? Or at Lambing Flat? Where was mateship when governments and institutions worked together to take children from their mothers – because the mother was unmarried, or black?"